Keeping the Minutes

The secretary takes notes of what business is conducted at meetings. These are the minutes, the official written record that will be kept as long as the group or organization directs. What is included in the minutes? Everything that happened — but not in minute detail! Remember that the minutes are read at the next meeting, and no one wants a blow-by-blow account that lasts as long as the meeting did.

The agenda is the guideline to what will be addressed at a meeting, so the secretary should keep it at hand for easy reference. A useful tool for the secretary is a copy of the agenda that has extra space between each agenda item for notes. New secretaries should always study the minutes of past meetings to see how they're done.

The minutes themselves should include the reports of officers and committees, and special orders or elections of officers. Any unfinished business is also included, and the secretary should make note of this for himself for agenda-making time so he's sure to include it for the next meeting. New business is documented. This should include what motions were made, what action was taken on them, and who made them. The person who seconded the motion doesn't have to be mentioned unless it is the policy of your group to do so.

If there was a program presented, there should be mention of it in the minutes, as well as any announcements that were made. Election results are very important, as are points of order and the chair's rulings on them. The hour of adjournment should be noted. The secretary should type and sign the minutes and initial any changes that are jotted in the margin at the next meeting. As always, the minutes should be proofread and spellchecked for accuracy.


Some groups tape-record their meetings. This way, the secretary or others can refer back to the tapes for the sake of accuracy. Sometimes people speak too quickly for even the most efficient note takers; other times there may be a member who challenges what the secretary noted. Having a tape recording available will help settle disputes quickly.

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